In 2012, when YouTube launched a mobile app to allow people to upload videos from their phones, it noticed something odd. Around 10% of the videos uploaded were upside-down. Further investigation revealed that all the engineers and designers who had created the app were right-handed. They simply hadn’t considered that left-handed people use their phones differently, leading to the upside-down videos.

It’s a small but powerful example of the hazards of groupthink, poor oversight in forward planning, and how diversity can improve products that directly relate to the bottom line. It’s also a lesson that financial services can learn from.

The business case for better gender balance at all levels within an organisation, not just at the board level, has been proven unequivocally. Countless studies demonstrate the increase in financial returns, lower risk of business failure, greater innovation and better business that comes with more balanced teams. If that wasn’t compelling enough, we’re entering an era that will be defined by ‘womenomics’. Over the next five to ten years, female wealth will fundamentally change the customer landscape, with predictions that 60% of disposable income in the UK will be controlled by women by 2025.

 

Gender balance is a business issue, not a women's issue

 

In financial services, women are under-represented and under utilised. There is also a substantial leak in the pipeline of talent, but there is no evidence to suggest that women are leaving predominantly related to motherhood. Pay, lack of learning and development, limited career progression and lack of meaningful work appear to be far more significant drivers. This is set against a backdrop of culture and behaviour that still, in some cases, creates an unwelcome environment for women in the workplace.

To achieve change, we need to move away from the idea that women need to be ‘fixed’ - the stereotype that women lack ambition, confidence, leadership skills, or appetite for risk - and instead look at our business practices and policies, and even our business structures. This includes the behaviours we support, how we promote, how we recruit, how we measure success - and everybody wins if we get it right. Transparency in recruitment, pay and promotion, as well as flexible working programmes and shared parental leave benefit everyone, not just women.

 

Businesses challenges need business solutions

 

Women often face complex barriers to achieving their full potential in financial services but there are proven solutions to overcome these obstacles – mentoring, coaching, sponsorship, development programmes, access to career opportunities, evidence-based action, and the support of organisations that are committed to accelerating change in culture and processes. It also means having the ability to look ahead and innovate.

We’re facing uncertain times and we don’t yet know what our equivalent of the left-handed user might be. Being able to access 100% of your potential workforce, customers, and client base to prepare for the future, simply makes good business sense.

#BalanceforBetter is Better for Business!